On October 28, 2022, a restrictive Organization Registration Law, regulating both domestic and international NGOs, was promulgated. The Law violates the freedom of association by mandating registration, enforcing criminal penalties, and severely restricting legitimate civil society activities. (For more information on the law, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.) CSOs have been forced to attempt registration under the new regime or face closure and criminal sanctions.
In addition, on October 21, 2022, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) designated Myanmar as a high-risk jurisdiction (placing it on the so-called ‘blacklist’). We are monitoring the impact of the blacklisting on CSO operations and the junta’s passage of new legislation.
On February 1, 2023, the self-appointed State Administration Council (SAC) announced the extension of the state of emergency and postponement of the promised elections (planned for August 2023) for another 6 months, as it continues to hoard executive, legislative and judiciary powers.
A new Political Party Registration Law was enacted in February 2023 (see the Legal Analysis section below for further details). In March 2023, the junta introduced addendums to its Anti or Counter-Terrorism Law, criminalizing numerous acts like accessing online education that could be linked to the National Unity Government (NUG), and significantly expanding the military’s surveillance and control.
ICNL continues to monitor new regulatory developments affecting civic space in Myanmar. For past reports (including on civil disobedience, post-coup legal changes, and digital rights), please contact email@example.com.
Although the term “civil society” was introduced in Myanmar only in the mid-1990s, community-based and religious organizations have been active in the country for decades. Traditionally, community-based organizations were formed by young people in order to assist in religious and social events.
During the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP) era, which began in 1962, civic space shrank dramatically. Only government-initiated organizations could be established. Literary and cultural associations initiated by the BSPP in ethnic areas continued their activities after the 1988 pro-democracy uprisings, but some of them transformed into ethnic-based organizations, which continue to teach their own languages and implement social activities today.
In the early 1990s, UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) began playing an active role in Myanmar. With their support, local NGOs were established. Many of these local NGOs focused on service-providing activities, such as healthcare and health education services, HIV/AIDS prevention, child protection and micro-finance.
In 2008, Cyclone Nargis fueled the growth of civil society, as sympathizers from all over the country formed local organizations to conduct relief work, soon joined by international NGOs. Inevitably, some of these relief organizations were temporary and have shut down, but many others continued carrying out social work for people in need.
Following constitutional reform in 2008, the first general elections in 20 years were held in 2010, bringing military-turned-civilian President Thein Sein to power in 2011. During the Thein Sein administration, Myanmar embarked on a slow and uncertain transition toward greater openness, but with continuing restrictions on the exercise of the freedoms of assembly, association and expression. The most notable improvement to the legal operating space came with the enactment of the new Association Registration Law (ARL) in July 2014. With the enactment of the new law, the 1988 Association Act was repealed. The ARL marked a relative opening of civic space.
In April 2021, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), created by ousted elected representatives at the 2020 general elections, established the National Unity Government (NUG), that claims to be the legitimate government of Myanmar. The SAC declared them as terrorist organizations.
The 2014 Association Registration Law was repealed in October 2022 with the enactment of the new Organization Registration Law (ORL) by the State Administrative Council (SAC). This law is mostly repressive and constrains operations for both domestic and international NGOs (see the Legal Analysis section below in this report for further details).
|Registration Body||Union Registration Board, Region or State Registration Board, Union Territorial Registration Board, Self-Administered Division or Zone Registration Board or Township Registration Board|
|Barriers to Entry||The enactment of the new Organization Registration Law (ORL) in October 2022 departed from previous voluntary registration to a mandatory complex and expensive registration process for both domestic and international NGOs.|
|Barriers to Activities||With the enactment of the Organization Registration Law in 2022, the government renews with heavy constraints over activities that are limited to “social tasks” and prohibiting any activities “directly or indirectly related to the political, economic and religious sectors” (2(g), ORL, 2022).|
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy||Several laws have been used to impede the freedom of expression, including the Anti-Defamation Law, State Secrecy Act, the 2004 Electronic Transactions Act, and the 2013 Telecommunications Law.|
|Barriers to International Contact||No legal barriers.|
|Barriers to Resources||The ORL 2022 established a strict financial monitoring framework over non-governmental organizations.|
|Barriers to Assembly||In the week following the coup in 2021, gatherings of more than 5 people were prohibited, and a curfew was put in place. Since then, violent crackdowns on protesters have been reported, as well as arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances that continue to impede the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The 2023 Political Party Registration Law prevents anyone convicted of a crime from joining a political party. Most trade unions have been banned.|
|Population||57,526,449 (2022 est.)|
|Type of Government||Parliamentary Republic with 25% military representation (since March 2011). Provisional governing body since 2 February 2021: State Administration Council (SAC)|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||69.92 years|
|Literacy Rate||Male: 92.4%; Female: 86.3%|
|Religious Groups||Buddhist 88%, Christian 6% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, Animist 1%, Hindu 0.5%, other 0.5%|
|Ethnic Groups||Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%|
|GDP per capita||$4,500 (2020 est.)|
Source: CIA World Factbook
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale
(best – worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||149 (2021-22)||1 – 191|
|World Justice Project Rule of Law Index||132 (2022)||1 – 140|
|Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index||10 (2022)||179 – 1|
|Transparency International||157 (2022)||1 – 180|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 0
Civil Liberties: 9 (2023)
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free
0 – 40
0 – 60
International and Regional Human Rights Agreements
|Key International Agreements||Ratification*||Year|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||No||—|
|Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)||No||—|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)||Yes||2017|
|Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention||Yes||1955|
|International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)||No||—|
|Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)||Yes||1997|
|Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||No||—|
|Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)||Yes||1991|
|International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)||No||—|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)||Yes||2011|
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty
The current Constitution of Myanmar was published in 2008 following a referendum; it entered into effect in 2011. Paragraph 354 of the 2008 Constitution states:
Every citizen shall be at liberty in the exercise of the following rights, if not contrary to the laws, enacted for Union security, prevalence of law and order, community peace and tranquility or public order and morality:
- to express and publish freely their convictions and opinions;
- to assemble peacefully without arms and holding procession;
- to form associations and organizations;
- to develop their language, literature, culture they cherish, religion they profess, and customs without prejudice to the relations between one national race and another or among national races and to other faiths.
In December 2013, the Government invited public comments on the Constitution. CSOs, political parties, and other interest groups submitted comments for consideration, focusing especially on Article 6(f) (political leadership of the role of the defense services); Article 59(f) (presidential qualifications); and Article 436 (more than 75% majority needed for amendment of the Constitution). A civil society-formed network called ‘People’s Network for Constitutional Reform’ mobilized public debate on the Constitution, and leading opposition party NLD (National League for Democracy) launched a nationwide campaign on constitutional reform. No significant amendments were made.
In January 2019, a Joint Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Amendment (JPCCA) was established to suggest constitutional amendments, with representation of all parties in the Union Parliament, including the military forces. The COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 general elections, and later the 2021 coup d’état interrupted the process, and none of the more than 3,000 suggested amendments were considered.
Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing relied on Article 417 of the 2008 Constitution to first declare a state of emergency and seize power in February 2021 with a coup denunciating alleged fraud from the NLD at the 2020 general elections. Various organizations have denounced the illegality of the coup, countering the SAC’s claims (see IDEA, 2022). The current state of emergency was extended for another 6 months in February 2023, and the State Administration Council announced that elections initially planned for August 2023 would not be held until the country was at peace and stable.
The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), formed of lawmakers elected in the 2020 general elections that were prevented from taking their seats due to the coup, declared the 2008 Constitution abolished in March 2021. Instead, they released a new interim Charter that laid the ground for the National Unity Government, that was officially established mid-April 2021.
National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector
Relevant national legislation includes the following:
- Association Registration Law (2014)
- Organization Registration Law (2022) (repealed the Association Registration Law)
- Unlawful Associations Act (India Act XIV,1908)
- The Code of Civil Procedure (1979)
- The Electronic Transactions Law (2004)
- Burma Official Secrets Act (1923)
- The Law Amending Income Tax Law (2011)
- Section 5 of the Emergency Provision Act (1950)
- The Labour Organization Law (2011)
- Social Security Law (2012)
- Regulations relating to the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Procession(2012)
- Law Amending the Code of Civil Procedure (2008)
- Guidelines for UN agencies, International Organizations and NGO/INGOs on Cooperation Programme in Myanmar (1st version (2006); 2nd version (2011))
- Telecommunications Law (2013)
- National Records and Archives Law (2019)
- Association Registration Rule (5 June 2015)
- Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law (4 October 2016)
- Media Law (14 March 2014)
- Media Rule (17 June 2015)
- Printing and Publishing Law (14 March 2014)
- Contempt of Courts Law (29 July 2013)
- Broadcasting Law
- Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens (8 March 2017)
- Counter –Terrorism Law (4 June 2014)
- Counter-Terrorism Rule (2015)
- Political Parties Registration Law (2023)
Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives
In the wake of the military coup in February 2021, several restrictive measures have been put forward by the Tatmadaw. For example, the State Administrative Council (SAC) released a revised draft Cybersecurity Law in January 2022, which expanded on its February 2021 proposed draft. Among other restrictive measures, the bill:
- Violates the right to privacy by facilitating surveillance and banning virtual private networks (VPNs);
- Violates freedom of expression by censoring broad, ill-defined categories of information, including any expression causing hate or disrupting the unity, stabilization, and peace;
- Burdens and over-regulates digital entities, further restricting online civic space through unrealistic obligations and licensing requirements;
- Institutes extreme, disproportionate criminal fines and penalties, including prison time for platform operators and others found guilty of violating provisions of the bill.
For more information on the proposed Cybersecurity Law or a copy of ICNL’s full analysis, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new Organization Registration Law now categorises international organizations and non-governmental international organizations. Under the ORL, “internal organization shall be defined as a non-governmental organization which was registered under this law, formed with five or more citizens in order to carry out social tasks without taking any benefit in accord with the entitlements mentioned in the Constitution for the sake of the State and the citizens” (2c). Similarly, a “non-governmental international organization shall be defined as the organization officially formed in any foreign country to open its branch in the country with at least 40 percent of Myanmar citizens in the executive committee which was registered at the Union Registration Board under this law in order to conduct any social task without taking benefit in the country” (2d). These definitions, contrary to the 2014 ARL, introduce a limitation of the organization’s activities to “social tasks,” thereby preventing anything considered to be political activities.
Public Benefit Status
Local NGOs are entitled to income tax exemptions; from the time of registration, an NGO can apply for an income tax exemption with the Ministry of Finance and Revenue. The law does not, however, recognize “public benefit” or “charitable” status.
There were various governmental initiatives and plans to benefit civic participation underway prior to 2020 (see for instance the Union government’s 12-point economic agenda and Framework for Economic and Social Reform), but they were largely initial announcements whose progress was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and then the military coup in 2021. Ethnic minorities and political opponents have long been targets of the military regime, who have deployed extensive efforts to prevent their public participation at all costs particularly after the coup.
Myanmar’s decentralisation process had given extended responsibility to subnational levels of governance, with increasing efforts to encourage public participation, especially at the Village Track or Township level, such as through the Ward or Village Tract Administration Law, 2012. Budget development and resources allocations mechanisms were one of the areas where subnational governments had shown promise for encouraging and enabling public participation.
The relevant laws and regulations affecting public participation included:
- The 2013 State and Region Hluttaw Law allowed for public questions and submissions directly to MPs and for individuals to attend parliamentary sessions
- The 2012 Ward or Village Tract Administration Law introduced a “people-centered development approach” with the establishment of committees at township levels to collect and respond to public queries
The Myanmar government had also joined various initiatives aimed at increasing its transparency and participatory governance, such as:
- Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)
- Open Budget Index (OBI)
- Open Government Partnership (OGP)
- Open Budget Survey (OBS)
In practice however, most subnational governance actors have refrained from operating with much autonomy, and governance still follows a very top down approach.
The 2021 military coup resulted in an extensive shift of the legal framework towards repression. An indefinite state of emergency was declared in February 2021, enabling surveillance, arbitrary arrests and detention. Following the coup, widespread intimidation and violence against the general population rendered any attempt at public participation life-threatening. Attempts at voicing dissent have been criminalized, especially through the amended criminal code and Electronic Transactions Law.
Any attempt at raising awareness on these participation and consultation mechanisms has largely come from CSOs, including both domestic NGOs and INGOs engaged in human rights education activities. However, the government has not shown willingness to publicize the few existing mechanisms, potentially due to their scarcity, and alternatively because it would expose itself to criticism. For instance, the Open Hluttaw platform, designed to monitor elected representatives, was a promising initiative, but was interrupted by the coup.
Marginalized Groups and Intimidation of Activists
The government has resorted extensively to restrictions on participation and the use of certain communication tools, and internet blackouts, to keep marginalized groups, especially ethnic minorities, from participating in public affairs. The 1982 Citizenship Law in effect rendered the vast majority of the Rohingya minority stateless, significantly limiting their civic freedoms, including participation. Myanmar’s governments have often prioritized a Buddhist nationalist agenda, at the expense of ethnic minorities in the country. Most official communications are available in the Burmese language only. The few communications available in ethnic languages usually have an instrumental purpose. While LGBTI individuals have been tolerated, especially in urban areas, during the 2011-2021 period, same-sex practices remained criminalized and the LGBTI community continued to be harassed. There is also no explicit legal protection to protect women against violence and discrimination.
Following the coup, the military junta reinstated limitations on domestic travels, with checkpoints, authorizations and curfews preventing access to many ethnic areas. The environmental movement in Myanmar has investigated and reported on land grabs, illegal natural resources exploitation, corruption, forced displacements and direct links between natural resources governance and illegal trafficking (of arms, drugs, and logging) remain highly sensitive issues in the country. Farmers and traditional landowners often face court cases by the military forces for trespassing or illegal occupation of land.
The Union Election Commission cancelled voting in some conflict-areas ahead of the 2020 general elections, preventing millions from electing their representatives. The democratic nature of the 2020 general elections was significantly undermined, as opposition candidates enjoyed limited access to official state-run media and (due to pandemic-related restrictions) on in-person campaigning. The military coup d’état in February 2021 was the ultimate denial not only of the general elections results, but also of public participation in the conduct of public affairs.
Overall, the legal framework in Myanmar is both outdated and used in a repressive spirit, to curtail anti-regime and anti-military criticism and repress political opposition. In February 2021 the criminal code and the Electronic Transactions Law were amended to criminalize anti-regime statements. They have been used to target activists, protesters and especially free media. VPNs were banned in March 2021, ensuring further surveillance of the population.
Barriers to Entry
Between 2021-2022, there were reports that the State Administrative Council (SAC) was planning a new association registration law for to replace the 2014 ARL, which created a relatively enabling CSO regulatory regime including voluntary registration. The Organization Registration Law (ORL) was enacted on October 28, 2022.
The new registration law follows the logic of the decentralized registration system implemented under the 2014 ARL, as registration bodies range from Union Registration Board, Region or State Registration Board, Union Territorial Registration Board, Self-Administered Division or Zone Registration Board or Township Registration Board (2e).
The new law establishes a mandatory registration system, while the 2014 ARL operated on a voluntary principle. Under the 2022 ORL, both domestic and international non-profit organizations now “shall, to obtain the registration certificate, apply for registration” (sections 7 and 17 respectively).
The law enacts:
- Elimination of voluntary registration, and criminal penalties for non-registration;
- Limitation of permissible CSO activities to social tasks (section 2c) , excluding political, economic, and religious issues (section 2g);
- Complex and expensive registration system with additional bureaucratic layers and security checks at multiple levels of administration;
- Possibility of registration suspension or termination based on vague accusations of “harming the State’s sovereign power, the prevalence of law and order, security and national unity” (section 25), without due process protections or the possibility of appeal;
- Strict financial monitoring around foreign funding and control of CSO financial flows (section 28g); and
- Periodic renewal of registration.
The ORL triples the registration fees from those under the ARL: previous fees set at MMK 100,000 (national level) and MMK 30,000 (regional level) have now increased to MMK 300,000 (national level) and MMK 100,000 (regional level) for domestic organizations and MMK 500,000 for international organizations. For applicants at the divisional and township levels, fees have now been reintroduced (between MMK 30,000 and MMK 50,000) where there were previously no fees.
Certain safeguards (e.g., a written explanation in case of denial, section 10) remain in place, yet the registration process remains complex. Potential barriers to the creation and registration of organizations could include:
- the deterring effect of navigating complex requirements;
- concerns about the consistency of implementation across the numerous registration committees;
- In case of rejection, the organization is only allowed to resubmit its application within 30 days. Past this deadline, any rejection is final (sections 11 and 16).
- Periodic renewal of registration:
- difficult renewal processes (such as extensive requirements to apply for extension of registration at least 90 days in advance) (section 14);
- The registration certificate is valid only for a limited time period and must be renewed every 5 years. (section 47)
The SAC also issued a new Political Parties Registration Law on January 26, 2023. The law gave 60 days from enactment to previously registered political parties (more than 90) to re-register, effectively dissolving many parties that were prevented or chose not to do so, including the National League for Democracy (NLD). To compete in general elections, parties will now have to demonstrate they have 100,000 members and pay a 100 million kyats deposit (1,000 members and 10 million kyats for state or regional elections), and they will need to be able to contest seats in at least half of the constituencies, making it very difficult for small ethnic parties to qualify. It prevents individuals and organizations that have been declared as unlawful or terrorist to join or register as political parties (section 4f). In effect, pro-democracy organizations such as the NUG, the CRPH have been declared terrorist organizations under the SAC. Under this new law, most ethnic political groups and political opponents will struggle to challenge the military proxy-party (USDP) at the next elections.
Barriers to Operational Activity
The transition period (2008/11-2021) and the enactment of the 2014 Association Registration Law, had mostly alleviated harassment associations were subject to by governmental authorities. The enactment of the Organization Registration Law in October 2022 now ensures a restrictive approach to regulating non-governmental organizations, similar to the military and SAC’s harsh approach to civil society post-2021 coup.
The key barrier to operations is the introduction of a limitation of accepted activities to “social tasks” and the prohibition of any activities “directly or indirectly related to the political, economic and religious sectors” (section 2g). This not only constrains civil society’s capacity to operate freely and their contribution to public affairs, it also appears contrary to obligations under international human rights law related to freedom of assembly, of expression, of association and the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs.
Another important barrier to operational activity is the territorial limitation implied by the multi-tiered system of registration committees.
Registered domestic associations are required to submit an annual narrative report and financial statement to the relevant registration committee (section 28g). They must also allow inspection of their publications, documents and premises (section 28h), and submit any organisational and management changes to the approval of the registration board (section 28j). The submission of the annual report is necessary in order to renew the registration certificate every 5 years.
Government-established NGOs or “GONGOs” may receive special privileges and create unfair competition for community-based organizations, and are not submitted to the law (section 26).
Barriers to Speech / Advocacy
Perhaps the most significant change of the political transition period in Myanmar between 2008-11 and 2021 related to freedom of expression. With the Censorship Board abolished in 2012, individuals and organizations enjoyed relative freedom of expression during the period, and space for political dissent. In addition, CSOs had more opportunity to contribute to law and policy making.
However, restrictive laws continued to be used instrumentally by the government to hinder the freedom of expression. The Telecommunications Law (Telecom Law), enacted in 2013, established the regulatory framework for foreign investment into Burma’s telecommunications infrastructure. Unfortunately, the Law also contained a number of provisions that impermissibly restrict the freedom of expression. Most notably, article 66(d) prohibiting the use of a telecommunications network to extort, coerce, defame, disturb, cause undue influence or threaten any person was used extensively during the period to curtail political dissent. Similarly, Burma’s 2004 Electronic Transactions Law, Article 33, criminalized using electronic transactions technology to commit any “act detrimental to the security of the State or prevalence of law and order or community peace and tranquillity or national solidarity or national economy or national culture.” These articles were used to jail dissidents, activists, CSO leaders and others for merely expressing opinions.
In addition, the Telecom Law, Article 77, authorizing the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to order the suspension of telecom services in emergency situations was used to justify extensive internet blackouts. As there are no criteria as to what can trigger such a suspension, the government used the article to shut down internet and mobile communications arbitrarily, which often immediately preceded crackdowns on peaceful demonstrators or other human rights violations.
Furthermore, the government and military used the broad language of Section 505 of the Penal Code to stifle dissent and punish critics and activists. Section 505 criminalizes making, publishing, or circulating any statement or report that, among other things, is likely to cause public fear or alarm and therefore induce anyone to commit an offense against the state or against “public tranquillity.”
Following the 2021 coup, the junta used indiscriminate violence to target journalists, activists and ordinary individuals, and especially protesters, for voicing dissent and supporting the pro-democracy movement. The military re-installed censorship and used state-owned broadcast media to disseminate propaganda. Access to information and free media, including social media, is heavily restricted. The SAC revised the legal framework to curtail freedom of expression and the Penal Code was amended to bring criminal liability to demonstrators and supporters of the pro-democracy movement, most recently with the amendment in March 2023 of the Law on Printing and Publishing, amended to authorize licenses to be revoked or suspended in case of alleged publication of culturally offensive content. Section 505 (a) now contains broad language that could be used against individuals seen as encouraging civil servants to join the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). The criminal code and Electronic Transactions Act was further amended to criminalize anti-regime statements, while VPNs were made illegal in an attempt to prevent individuals from escaping arbitrary surveillance, which has become widespread again. Thousands of people have been arrested, forced into hiding or exile, and harassed for their pro-democracy views as a result of this crackdown. With the draft Cyber Security Law still in the pipeline, a repressive trend by the regime on freedom of expression continues to be expected.
Barriers to International Contact
There is no legal impediment to contact and cooperate with colleagues in civil society, business and government sectors, either within or outside the country. That said, the Electronic Transactions Act (2004) remains in force, and has been used to impede the freedom of expression, as mentioned above. It was amended in February 2021 to introduce criminal liability for individuals engaging in “misinformation or disinformation with the intent of causing public panic, loss of trust or social division on cyberspace” (section 38 c), which could be used to repress criticism of the coup or of the junta’s actions. Following her arrest on 1st February 2021, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi received a string of charges, including violating the Electronic Transactions Act with possession of unlicensed walkie-talkies. A foreign journalist had also been charged under the Electronic Transactions Act (and has since been released).
Barriers to Resources
Domestic and foreign NGOs were left in limbo due to the collapse of the financial system in Myanmar following the 2021 coup d’etat Some INGOs also decided to boycott tax payments to show their disapproval of the new military regime. In March 2021, the military regime also seized the Open Society Foundation’s (OSF) accounts in Myanmar for their support of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM).
The Organization Registration Law also requires organizations “not to cooperate with, assist in and provide support to either directly or indirectly money laundering and terrorism financing through cash flow, cash management and monetary support” (section 6). Historically, a wide range of organizations have been categorized as “terrorists” in Myanmar, including pro-democracy actors such as the CRPH, NUG and the People’s Defense Forces (PDF). On top of intrusive financial monitoring, such vague wording actually hinders on non-governmental organizations’ ability to receive support, including funding.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) placed Myanmar on its blacklist in October 2022 for failing to prevent illegal activities and address money laundering and terrorist financing. While the heightened due diligence requirements to conduct economic affairs in Myanmar is welcome, it could further constrain Myanmar’s civil society’s access to remittance and foreign aid flows.
Barriers to Assembly
The Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession law that came into force in 2016 required organizers of an assembly to request authorization from the township level police chief with 48 hours’ notice. Where assemblies proceeded without notification, organizers and protesters were routinely arrested and imprisoned. Some CSOs, including the Yangon Student Union Students, initiated broad-based public consultation and advocacy processes against this Act. Even where organizers provided notice, Section 20 of the law allowed police to targeted organizers by claiming they violated the conditions of the protest.
A blanket ban on demonstration was initiated in 2017 in 11 townships of Yangon region, used selectively to restrict protests, particularly those by minority groups. In 2020, extensive internet shutdowns in conflict areas, especially Rakhine and Chin states, impeded people’s ability to access information (essential in time of global pandemic), to organize, and to participate to public life, especially in the lead up to the 2020 general elections.
Following the 2021 coup and the large antimilitary protests that erupted across the country, freedom of assembly has been significantly restrained. In the weeks following the coup, gatherings of more than 5 people were made illegal and a curfew was implemented. The military’s violent crackdown on protesters continues to this day.
While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at email@example.com.
The Myanmar military issued a slew of new by-laws pursuant to the country’s 2014 Counter Terrorism Act – all of which give the junta vast and unchecked powers to control, monitor, and target any resistance to their ongoing brutality on the ground. These rules are anything but legal, however, offering only a veneer of authority to the military’s authoritarian attacks against the people of Myanmar. The international community must denounce this latest in a long line of measures designed to censor, curtail, and control people’s online activities.
Myanmar’s junta has expanded its ability to target those who seek its removal from power by sharpening the teeth of law that it’s already used to jail hundreds of people since seizing power in a coup d’etat two years ago. The addendum to the Anti-Terrorism Law issued on March 1 allows authorities to eavesdrop on suspects, confiscate their assets and take other steps to crush the opposition.
Myanmar’s military government enacts new political party law (January 2023)
Myanmar’s military-controlled government has enacted a new law on registration of political parties that will make it difficult for opposition groups to mount a serious challenge to army-backed candidates in a general election set to take place later this year. The new electoral law, published in the state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper, sets minimum funding and membership levels for parties participating in the polls. It also bans participation by parties or candidates deemed unlawful or linked to organizations declared by the military government to be terrorist groups.
Myanmar’s de facto military government has promulgated an Organization Registration Law (ORL) which stands to further shackle the functioning of civil society in the country. The Law is plainly non-compliant with international human rights law and standards, imposing serious obstacles to the exercise of freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, expression and information, and the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs.
FATF adds Myanmar to the blacklist (October 2021)
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) identifies jurisdictions with weak measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing (AML/CFT). At the FATF Plenary Press Conference on 21 October 2022, the FATF announced that Myanmar has been categorised as a high-risk jurisdiction subject to a call for action, as the country has not sufficiently addressed the “large number of AML/ CFT recommendations”. This means that competent authorities and financial institutions have to take enhanced due diligence measures to mitigate the higher risk in respect of financial transactions involving Myanmar.
As Myanmar’s military struggles to consolidate its control over a country in revolt, it has increasingly targeted a different type of resistance: lawyers defending political prisoners. In the past month, at least five lawyers have been arrested across Myanmar for defending politicians and activists, an escalation of the military’s assault on the judicial system. Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said the targeting of lawyers might also cut off a vital source of information about other detained prisoners.
Myanmar’s military has imposed martial law across more districts around the country following the deadliest day of protests since February’s coup. About 50 people were reported killed when troops and police opened fire on protesters in various areas. Protesters are demanding the release of ousted civilian leader Aung San Kyi. The charges against Ms Suu Kyi carry sentences of several years in jail and could also lead to her being barred from running in future elections if convicted.
Military Releases Draft Cyber Security Bill (February 2021)
The Tatmadaw has released a draft cyber security bill which gives authorities substantial control over all electronic and online communications, data, and online service providers, in contravention to international standards on Internet freedoms. The bill includes provisions allowing Internet shutdowns and service interruptions, and criminalizing misinformation and various forms of protected online expression.
Coup Protesters Jump to Twitter after Facebook Blocked (February 2021)
After Myanmar’s new military rulers imposed a temporary block on Facebook, thousands in the country joined Twitter. Many are using the platform and pro-democracy hashtags to criticize the army’s coup and call for peaceful protests until the result of the election, which was won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, is respected.
Myanmar Editor Jailed for Covid Error (May 2020)
A Myanmar news editor has been jailed for two years after his agency reported a coronavirus death that turned out to be false. The country has reported only 199 confirmed cases of coronavirus and six deaths, although the low numbers tested mean that experts fear the true figures are far higher. Chief editor Zaw Ye Htet was arrested on May 13, the same day his online news agency Dae Pyaw published an erroneous article alleging there had been a death due to Covid-19 in eastern Karen state. On May 20, he faced trial and “was sentenced under section 505(b) to two years in jail” by the court in Karen state.
The Mandalay Special Branch Police have opened a case against a detained Mandalay-based journalist under the Counter-Terrorism Law for publishing an interview with the spokesperson of the Arakan Army, which the government recently designated a terrorist group.
New National Records and Archives Law preserves government secrecy (March 2020)
The new National Records and Archives Law is the opposite of the right to information. It replaces the 1990 Law but preserves the military’s policy that information is government property and access to information is a threat to national security. However, it has one improvement over the previous draft bill. The new Law includes a weak presumption that information should be accessible to the public after its secrecy classification has ended.
Myanmar students face charges over internet shutdown protest (February 2020)
A Myanmar student union said on Monday police were seeking to press charges against nine of its members for organising a protest against an eight-month-long internet shutdown in the restive west of the country. Around 100 students gathered in the commercial capital of Yangon on Sunday demanding an end to the internet cut-off in Rakhine and Chin states, where civilian casualties are mounting as government troops battle ethnic rebels.
Myanmar added to money-laundering watchlist (February 2020)
An international financial watchdog has placed Myanmar on its money-laundering watchlist, urging the country at the heart of the drug-producing “Golden Triangle” to boost its efforts to seize crime proceeds. The decision by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to include Myanmar on its “grey list” puts the country on notice to make good on a “high-level” commitment to strengthen its anti-money laundering regime. In a 2018 report, the FATF found “Myanmar faces extremely high levels of proceeds-generating crimes” and was “exposed to a large number of very significant money laundering threats.”
Planned archives law alarms civil society (July 2019)
Myanmar’s government is proposing a new law on storing records and archives which critics fear will restrict public access to state information. If approved by parliament, the law would make accessing information stored in the National Archives Department without permission a criminal offence with a maximum prison sentence of three months and K200,000 fine. Advocacy group Free Expression Myanmar (FEM) warns that the government would be in complete control of deciding who can access government-held information, even with the lowest classification of confidentiality.
Myanmar authorities must end assault on peaceful protestors (December 2018)
The Myanmar authorities must end their assault on peaceful protestors and immediately release three Kachin peace activists jailed for defaming the military and drop charges against another three charged with peacefully protesting a court conviction. The three activists were charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act for holding a protest without permission in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.
Myanmar CSO Group Wants Arrests of Peaceful Antiwar Protesters Stopped (May 2018)
A national-level committee representing dozens of civil society groups in Myanmar asked authorities to stop the arrests of and violent crackdowns on demonstrators in the commercial capital Yangon, who have been peacefully protesting against the civil war in Kachin state. Myanmar police want to charge 17 organizers of a 300-strong antiwar protest on May 12 in Yangon with “disturbing the public” and staging a protest without permission from authorities, Reuters reported. The event ended in a melee between protest organizers and baton-wielding riot police.
Uncertainty, concern over draft foreigner laws (January 2017)
Myanmar to study Thailand’s media for drafting its own media law (November 2014)
Government says NGO’s doctors can return (August 2014)
Myanmar reduces penalties in public protest laws (June 2014)
Burma Bans NGO from Operating in Rakhine State (March 2014)
Myanmar’s Legislature in a Time of Transition (December 2013)